CLARK COUNTY – The use of naloxone to treat overdoses has increased dramatically statewide, but has nearly doubled in Clark County in recent months.
According to a chart shared at a state press briefing on Wednesday, there was a 35% increase in naloxone use statewide from last year, and in County of Clark, there was a 95.83% increase.
“We’ve never seen a distribution of naloxone like this before,” said Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
Sullivan announced at the press conference that more naloxone was used in April 2020 than any other month in the state’s history. Naloxone, or Narcan, is used to quickly block the effects of opioid overdoses, and it was used 1,306 times in Indiana in April.
Clark County health official Dr Eric Yazel said the county faced the highest rate of opioid overdoses since February 2017. The health department reported 37 overdoses were treated in the emergency room. in April, including 23 specifically for heroin, according to previous coverage by the News and the Tribune. In February 2017, 25 heroin overdoses were reported.
The county has mainly seen an increase in heroin and fentanyl use, Yazel said.
Data from the Clark County 911 Center shows a significant increase in calls mentioning overdoses and Narcan use in the past two months compared to last year, according to technical services Garry Pavey.
From March to May 2019, the 911 center received calls regarding 55 overdose incidents, and Narcan was used in 18 of these incidents. During the same period in 2020, 77 overdose incidents were reported and Narcan was used in 52 of these incidents.
Many factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic could be linked to this increase, Yazel said.
“There are so many factors – loss of daily structure, social isolation, economic hardship,” he said. “A lot of people have lost their jobs or perhaps have experienced housing instability or food instability – things like that.”
It could also be a difficult time for people recovering from addiction, as many services are group-based but could now be limited due to social distancing, he said.
“All the factors made us fear that this was going to be a scenario that we saw, and the numbers kind of checked it out,” Yazel said.
Over the past four to five weeks, Jeffersonville Fire Sgt. Justin Ames has noticed an increase in calls involving people who are unresponsive, and as a result, there has been an increase in the use of naloxone in case the person overdoses.
“There is a slight spike now, but that doesn’t compare to the number of calls we were getting a few years ago,” he said.
Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs said there appeared to have been more calls related to opioid overdoses in the past month.
“I think so much has been focused on the COVID-19 response that other areas are not necessarily overlooked, but many are not scrutinized as closely,” he said. “In terms of the mental health aspect of the pandemic, I’m not sure if it affects people who use opioids in a different way, but it’s definitely a problem. There might be a connection there, but I’m not sure.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, it may be more difficult to tackle lingering issues such as drug addiction, according to Yazel.
“First and foremost, we just need, as soon as we can, look at these recovery services as essential services, which they are and get as much as we can back up and run,” he said. . “I think what we’ve put in place has worked, it’s just a matter of mitigating circumstances that we haven’t been able to do it to their full potential.”
Governor Eric Holcomb and the FSSA recently announced that the state will fund nearly $ 1 million for the distribution of naloxone. The nonprofit Overdose Lifeline, Inc. will distribute 25,000 doses of naloxone to people who are likely to be the first at the scene of an overdose, including first responders, families and caregivers.
Naloxone requests are available at www.overdoselifeline.org/2020-indiana-naloxone-request.
Yazel is encouraged to see state support for increased distribution of naloxone. The Department of Health replenished its supply last week and there should be access to additional naloxone if needed, he said.
“It has always been a thing to [the health department] – we want to make sure that anyone who needs it has the low barrier ability to train and administer it, ”he said.